CONRADO F. BENITEZ

(1889 - 1971)

 

 

Sportsman, journalist, constitutionalist, lawyer, educator, civic leader, and economist - all these best describe the person of Conrado F. Benitez. He was born in Pagsanjan, Laguna on November 26, 1889, the fourth son of Judge Higinio Benitez and Soledad Francia, both from Laguna.

 

He obtained his elementary education in Pagsanjan and at the Victoria Grammar School House in what is nowthe Manila High School. as a boy, Conrado used to be called Izutony tubig because he was always swimming in the Pagsanjan river.

 

From Victoria, he transferred to the Philippine Normal School high school department where he graduated valedictorian.

 

In 1911, he was sent as a government pensionado to the University of Chicago, where he acquired the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with high honors. He also earned honors in swimming and was the first Filipino to be elected captain of the University water polo team.

 

As a sportsman, he earned immortality by winning three gold medals in the Far East Swimming Olympics held in Manila in 1913.

 

Five years later, he received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines. The different honors and positions conferred on him (he also was conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, by Grinnel College in Iowa, USA) had fully qualified him for the important task that lay for him in the Constitutional Convention of 1935.

 

For a time, he was an instructor in the Philippine Normal College, where he met his famous wife, Francisca Tirona, a classmate of his who had won his admiration during their high school days. They had so many things in common, in fact, that they just fell in love and got married.

 

Their marriage was blessed with three children: Helena, Tomas, and Alfredo, all of whom upheld the family tradition of excellence and leadership.

 

Once, while contemplating on how much more there was to do, Dean Benitez mused, "Had I married another woman, perhaps I would not have been ..." and he smiled at his wife.

 

The University of the Philippines took him and appointed head of the department of economics and later dean of the College

Liberal Arts in 1918. Me was co-founder and dean of the UP College of Business Administration.

 

Impelled by love for journalism, he resigned from the University of the Philippines and accepted the editorship of The Citizen, the first Fiiipino weekly paper in English. He was later chosen the first Filipino, editor of The Philippines Herald. For these, he was considered the father of Filipino journalism in English.

 

Benitez was one of the founders of the Philippine Columbian Association. Here he showed not only his ability as a writer, but also his Seing an unalloyed nationalist. He was one of the advisers of Manuel L. Quezon and was a faculty adviser of the Varsity News, then the official organ of the student body of the University of the Philippines. He was uncompromising in his advocacy of Philippine Independence and in defense of Filipino against alien interests.

 

As a delegate to the Constitutional Convention convened in 1935, Benitez was chosen one of the "seven Wise Men" to whom was entrusted the task of writing the final draft of the Constitution of the Philippines. He also took the credit of introducing into the Constitution the ideas of conserving the nation's natural resources and providing for the general education of the youth.

 

As an educator, he trained many of today's educational experts. His books on history, economics, civics and sociology were made textbooks for the schools, thereby shaping the thinking of generations of Filipinos.

 

With his meritorious work, he was honored as distinguished alumnus during the PNC Golden Jubilee in 1951. He also received a Diploma of Merit for faithful services to higher education from the University of the Philippines in 1962. In 1963 he was made Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Dean Benitez maintained an active role in the promotion of the Philippine labor movement. He had participated as Philippine delegate in various International Labor Organization (ILO) conferences abroad and was active in the local labor front. He was also an ILO employer delegate until 1955.

 

As an untiring civic leader, Dean Benitez was honored by the Association of Red Feather Agency Executives (ARFAE) with the Civic Leader of the Year" award in 1956. He was one of the founders f the Phiiippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) which he also headed. The purpose of which was to give barrio communities the skills they needed to improve themselves. He was vice-president of the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction and co-founder of the YMCA, of which he was president and board chairman for 15 years. With these organizations, he had propagated the concept of the brotherhood of men.

 

Dean Benitez joined such stalwarts as ManueI Quezon. Rafael Palma, Justice Jose A. Santos, Teodoro M. Kalaw. Quintin Parades, and others in Masonry. He served as Grand Master of Masons and Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite of Free Masonry I`rom 1961 to 1969.

 

Other awards given to him were: the Presidential Award for Commmunity Service by the University of Chicago Alumni Association in 1944, and in 1957 the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

 

As adviser to the first Philippine Mission to the United States, He also organized and became the first head of the Philippine Press Bureau in Washington, D.C.

 

As an economist, he established Benitez and Company inc. in which he was chairman of the board and president. The Company acquired the right to represent in the Philippines accredited and reliable firms from the U.S., Europe and the neighboring Asian countries.

 

Don Conrado believed that there could be no truly national democratic policy, until the government is controlled by the true representatives of the people.

 

Domingo C. Bascara wrote: "On his 75th birthday, he confided to me 'My remaining years are not too many. I want to devote them intensively in the service of my country. Use me." Sometime later on his way to the hospital for treatment of an ailment, he remarked to :ne again. "I may not come back from the hospital, I have a special request to make of you. For the good of our country, do everything you can to keep the spirit of 1896 alive."

 

At the age of (80), he still held office at the Philippine Women's University (which he co-founded in 1919) and where he was chairman of the board, and at the Manila Loan and Building Association of which he was president.

 

An eminent Rizalist, he received the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal, the highest decoration given by the Order of the Knights of Rizal.

 

Benitez played his part in nation building. For his noble achievement,, President Marcos conferred upon him the Rizal Pro-Patria Award, an honor given to people who reflect the dedication of Rizal.

 

In the morning of January 4, 1971, "Daddy B", as Dean Benitez was fondly called at the Philippine Women's University, died at the age of 81 at his residence in Mira Nila, Quezon City.

 

 

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